Hawai’i (The Big Island)


Today we planned a trip to the active volcano Kilauea situated in the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and a brief visit to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory.

We were already berthed by the time we emerged from our cabin to be disappointed that it was raining ‘up-top’. The volcano Mauna Loa should have been visible from the ship, but the promised continuous smoke from eruptions was not to be seen, hidden by a blanket of heavy grey rain clouds that obscured everything at elevation.

Breakfasted by 9 am we returned to our cabin to prepare for a wet day. Disembarking was reasonably quick considering most of the 2600+ passengers were keen to feel the solid ground underneath their feet. Dashing to the port terminal to escape the worst of a sudden downpour we waited around twenty minutes to board our tour bus to the National Park.

None of the tours today were going to escape the rain, this is the wettest of the islands and we are on the rainy side of the volcanic chain, with an annual rainfall of up to 180 inches a year. We had been warned that at 4 000 feet the summit of Kilauea can be rainy and chilly at any time of the year, to be prepared for variable weather, bring a raincoat, long pants, and close-toed shoes. Of course, some departing the ship were better dressed for a hot day on the beach, they were going to learn the hard way to read the provided literature and listen to the tour guides.

It rained all the way to the visitor center located not far from the crater rim. We had an hour at the center and had been informed that the walk to the caldera viewing platform would take around half an hour each way. Departing the bus in heavy rain Sue and I set off at pace along the path that led to the viewpoint. Most in our party opted for the comfort of the view and gift shop in Volcano House, the original 1877 building now houses the Volcano Art Center and hotel.

It took us just a little over ten minutes to reach the viewpoint, the rain had eased a little but the view below was shrouded in mist, not good for photography. We were soon joined by a few other intrepid tourists, determined not to be put off by the conditions. We were briefly rewarded with a break in the downpour and the far side of the crater came into hazy view, the lava lake was black from the precipitation and threw up clouds of steam denying close examination of its structure. We gave it fifteen minutes then in heavy rain made our way to the sanctuary of Volcano House, its obscured view and obligatory gift shop. I may not have captured a good photo of the volcano, but I did buy the T-shirt!

Moving on we made a very brief stop to view a couple of fumaroles located at the side of the road, there were many more around but the conditions put a dampener on the enthusiasm of our group to experience them. A little further on we made a twenty-minute stop at another viewpoint over the now mostly hidden crater, but on the walk to the viewing platform we came across the rare Nene, the national bird of the islands.

We descended from the volcano in the rain that filled the road gulleys with a frothing torrent and headed to the Mauna Loa Macadamia factory. We had been told that it has been raining on this island for the last week, non-stop, so it was with a surprise that on arrival at the factory, the rain stopped. Still, under the threatening grey cloud, we spent half an hour wandering the site, sampling the nuts and all their added flavours in the factory shop, investigating the surrounding garden, and peering through the windows of the factory to watch the workers busily boxing up the fruit of the business.

We returned to the ship and boarded in another downpour, after discarding wet clothing in the cabin we made our way to the Salty Dog Grill for burgers and chips.

We had planned a short walk in the afternoon to the small islet of Coconut Island just half an hour’s stroll away, but the greyness and drizzle had set in so we opted to play backgammon and watch a film instead. There is a limit to our adventurousness and today’s soaking was it. With the rain forecast for tomorrow’s visit to Honolulu in mind, we do have to dry our kit!

The evening entertainment was a colourful song and dance show called Disco Boogie, music from the eighties.

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